MELBOURNE Storm coach Craig Bellamy may say that he does not know, or had not really thought about what sort of tricks Canterbury counterpart Des Hasler could pull out of the box in Sunday's grand final. But Bellamy has no doubt of the capabilities of the Bulldogs mentor.
The pair have shared a intense rivalry, spilitting grand final wins in 2007 and 2008 when Hasler was the coach of Manly, although the Storm's premiership was later stripped because of salary cap rorting.
Bellamy said he admired the transformation that Hasler had made to the Bulldogs, which he took to the minor premiership in his first season at the club. In that time, he has, similar to Bellamy, changed journeymen and fringe players into quality first graders.
"I don't know what to expect from Des on Sunday, but the thing you know is he's done a wonderful thing with them this year," said Bellamy, before the Storm's training session on Tuesday afternoon.
"He's obviously changed their game style without a doubt, and I'd imagine they'll stick pretty much with that they've been doing (all season). It's been very successful, they've been the best and most successful team throughout the competition this year, so he's done a wonderful job there in getting all those guys on board and believeing in what he wanted to do.
"Those players have turned themselves into NRL players. Des has obviously shown them what they have to do and how they do it and they've taken the bull by the horns and done it .
"We're talking about Josh Reynolds being the Blues five-eighth next year and I don't think he's going to be too far away from it either and Kris Keating he's been in it a little while but he's obviously playing the best footy he's ever played."
The Storm had their first major training session of the week on Tuesday afternoon with the main injury concern winger Sisa Waqa, who jarred his left knee late last week. Waqa believes that he will be fit for Sunday's game. After beginning the session with individual sprint drills, he joined in the team drills.
"We're pretty sure that by Thursday we'll know who'll be in the team. Today we're not quite sure but we'll sure how a couple of those injured guys go and we'll go from there," Bellamy said.
Adding to the pressures of the week, the partners of Todd Lowrie and Gareth Widdop are expecting to give birth to their second children within the next week. However, there is no suggestion that the players will pull out of the game.
"There wasn't a great deal of belief obviously earlier this year about us making the grand final," joked Bellamy about the expected timing of the births.
"They're still holding on the girls and hopefully something happens real soon or a far bit later but the boys have been really good. They haven't really shown too much stress."
Stathi Paxinos covers rugby league, rugby union, boxing, swimming and Australian Rules football for The Age. He has covered numerous major sporting events including the Sydney Olympic Games (boxing), the 2003 Rugby World Cup, state of origin contests and NRL finals, world title fights and national swimming championships. Stathi also covered boxing and aquatics at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.
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